Story as told by Alison, Melissa’s mum
My daughter used to live life to the full, loved being out with friends and it was not unusual for suddenly a troop of youngsters to come into my kitchen looking for their tea. It meant that the house was always full of life and I liked it that way. Melissa was very popular and she had a large group of friends. She was a sensible and mature girl too. She just loved her seven year old sister Brooke and she would take her to the park and mind her if I had to go out.
Then that fateful day when she told me “we are going to get jabs at school”. I knew the vaccine was supposed to prevent the HPV viruses which could lead to cervical cancer but other than that I did not know too much about it. I had assumed I would receive more information from the school. Melissa had her first jab which appeared not to cause a problem and then after her second jab her joints started to swell immediately – starting with her right thumb then spreading to every other joint. Within a week Melissa was really ill. She could not physically move and was also covered in a rash from head to toe. She was experiencing high temperatures, sweats, chills, vomiting, severe headaches, pain in every joint and constantly slept for weeks. We could not even touch Melissa as she was so sore.
We had home visits from the local GP and visited Barnsley Hospital on a few occasions. The hospital sent her home with Piriton and said it was an allergic reaction to the HPV vaccine. Eventually we were referred to Leeds General Hospital to see a consultant, by this time Melissa’s health had really deteriorated. I was really frightened that I was going to lose her. Many tests and x-rays were taken which showed an enlarged spleen. After a little while the consultant diagnosed Melissa as having systemic juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (Still’s disease).
From that day Melissa has been on a high dose of steroids and drugs to reduce inflammation. She also was given a chemotherapy treatment (Methotrexate injections) but then after a while it was found that this was not strong enough on its own and after trying other combinations, they eventually introduced an infusion called Tocilizumab which after three months seemed to be working. By this time Melissa had been on steroids for such a long time that she had gained a lot of weight which has caused other problems.
Two years later and Melissa is still suffering, she is still on the Methotrexate and the infusion as well as having a Methylprednisolone injection if required. The downfall to having all of this medication is that she gets a lot of infections and has to have antibiotics a lot of the time. Melissa expects to be on this form of treatment for another three years – she missed the last two years of school including missing all her exams. She still struggles with day to day tasks and we have also recently had to move because our previous house could not be adapted to suit Melissa’s needs. Melissa still sleeps a lot and is very lethargic and has to be careful not to over use her joints otherwise she ends up being in a lot of pain.
I wish now I had never given my consent to her having the injection and would give anything in the world for my daughter to have her life back. Life before this vaccination was just wonderful for Melissa and I hope that one day she can recover enough to get some of it back.